Joy rides such as this sport coupe dash from Alabama to Michigan are hard-earned. To qualify, Automobile Magazine editors suffer endless hours in crowded airliners harassed by surly flight attendants. While jetting coast to coast in pursuit of grist for the editorial mill, frustration swells like the national debt, because the America best suited to car fun--lonely roads through lush forests, sprawling deserts, and beguiling mountain passes--lies less than six miles below cruising altitude.
To vent some of our air-travel anxiety, managing editor Amy Skogstrom and I exploited the road warrior's award option by bailing out of the aluminum tube to test drive an Infiniti G37S and a BMW 335i coupe--the long way home--on the finest back roads no money can buy.
Infiniti picked the original fight five years ago, when the first-generation G35 coupe was born with its sights fixed on BMW's roundel. Back then, what amounted to a Nissan 350Z with a back seat topped the then-current 3-series, but the margin of victory was as thin as the tire tread left after those two squared off for their road ruckus.
The rematch we've arranged pits an all-new 3-series against a comprehensively re-tuned G37. BMW raised the bar with--no surprise--an engine to die for: six turbocharged and intercooled cylinders fed by direct fuel injection and optimized with variable valve timing. The fruits of Infiniti's G37 homework include a 36 percent stiffer unibody, a larger and more potent V-6 engine, and a chassis fortified with larger brakes and tauter suspension. The S's (S is Infiniti's not-so-secret code for Sport) armory is well-stocked, with a six-speed manual transmission, quicker steering, larger brake rotors with opposed-piston calipers, nineteen-inch wheels and tires, more supportive seats, a viscous limited-slip differential, and battle-hardened suspension. Punch the start button, and the sizzle in the G37S's exhaust tells you that it's ready to rumble.
As intended, the fur was flying within a few miles. The G37S stepped into an early lead by racking up style points before we crossed the Georgia border. The new Infiniti--with its rakish stance, flamboyant fenders, and ten-spoke aluminum wheels--decisively upstages the more demure Bimmer. On its own, the BMW is a handsome sculpture, but the Infiniti's sparkling headlamps, Gatling-gun taillamps, and four-inch exhaust cannons fire visual salutes like a rolling fireworks exhibition. Every angle beckons an appreciative glance.
There's also plenty to admire inside the G37S. The feel-good begins when you slip into the perforated-leather, French-seamed, highly adjustable seats. While both contenders present critical information with clear red and white markings on a classic black background, the Infiniti trumps the BMW on two counts: One is the captivating purple glow accenting its dial centers and control knobs. The other is the handy lever that allows you to elevate the G37S's cluster and wheel as an ensemble. A detail that is practically indistinguishable in this pair is the handshake you receive from their three-spoke steering wheels. The subtle spoke-to-rim transitions feel as if both wheels popped from the same mold.